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In the city of New York less than one per cent of the population is recognized, under the law, as worth enough above legal exemptions to be liable to a tax for personal property. The tax office laid assessments under the head of personal property against 24,030 persons; but 12,320 of this number submitted affidavits that they were not liable for personal taxes, and 10,140 of them succeeded in getting their names erased from the tax rolls.
The citizens of Columbus (Ohio) have just discovered that the county treasury has been suffering for years from the ravages of the county officers, who have been piling up money in a manner that has been a surprise to all. During the past few years the city has been engaged in laying pavements in every direction. The discovery has just been made that the county auditor and treasurer have, during that time, taken two and a half per cent each for placing and collecting the assessments upon the property abutting the improvements. These officers have thus been able to put in their own pockets from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars each every year.
A large number of the patrons of one of the public bath-houses in New York City were lately found to be suffering with eye diseases. Investigation led to the discovery that the bath-house was located at the mouth of a public sewer, and that the bathers had been poisoned by the foul water. Sanitary Inspector Doty investigated the condition of the other city baths and found the water more or less filled with noxious particles at every bath except one. The Health Board ordered the removal of the baths to places where the water is not fouled by the sewers, and also authorized an inspection of private bath-houses.
The results of the manufacture of gas by the city of Philadelphia for the first six months of the current year throw some further light on the subject of municipal gas making. It appears that all the gas consumed there during this period amounted to 2,580,379,000 feet, yielding a profit of $879,419 to the city. This looks as if the city was making a good thing of manufacturing gas, but an examination of the accounts shows that the city bought 925,222,000 feet of gas
from private concerns during the six months, paying therefor thirty-seven cents per thousand feet, and selling it to consumers for $1.50, making a profit of over a million dollars on the transaction. This more than equals the entire profits, so that it would appear that the only sure way for a city to make money in the gas business is to purchase it from private producers.-Boston Herald.
The question which chiefly agitated the constitutional convention of Mississippi, probably the one it was specially designed to consider, was the franchise. But the discussion loses much of its general interest, as the result will of importance, because of the peculiar conditions which give rise to the one, and are to be affected by the other. Although the limitations of franchise, which, it seems certain, will be accomplished, must be contrived subject to the reconstruction amendments of the Federal Constitution, and will therefore appear general in their expression, their operation is intended to affect only the negro vote. While the result thus lacks generality, it gains importance in another way. For now again a deliberative assembly is required to find a solution for the problem of the co-existence of a superior and an inferior race on terms of nominal political equality. The disadvantages of having to pretend that things are equal which are really unequal, that things are so which are not so, will now receive a new illustration. Meanwhile democracy languishes.
The more or less worthy citizens who, for want of careful thought, use the first weapon that is put in their hands to fight evil; and, worst of all, the STATE SOCIALIST:
To the minds of all these, the one thing needful for reforming the world (i. e., every one but themselves) is a policeman and a straight-jacket.
The recent strike of the London policemen has drawn forth a variety of opinions as to the causes and the consequences of it, and at last we have the sentiment of the burglar interest as to the effect of the strike on that particular branch of industry. Paradoxical as it may seem, the burglar sentiment was very strong in condemnation of the strike, because, during the time of its continuance, burglary was extra hazardous and unprofitable. It so happened that, the nominal protection of the police having been withdrawn, the citizens fell back on the right of selfprotection, and this proved so bewildering to the burglars in its methods, and so efficient in its action, that they emphatically denounced the strike as altogether unnecessary and unjustifiable on the part of the police. As soon as the strike was declared "off" and the policemen had returned to duty, a very gratifying revival was observed in the burglar trade. Some people outside of London are applying the moral of all this, and the opinion is gaining ground that there are some cities even in America where a strike of the police would be of great assistance to honesty, liberty, and law. Gen. Trumbull in the Open Court.
LESSONS OF GOVERNMENT ADMINISTRATION OF TRUST FUNDS.
A fact which has received some attention — enough to place its reality beyond question
is that co-operative societies have flourished in France as they have nowhere else. The most cautious students of industrial progress have long reached the conclusion that co-operation is destined to take the place of the present system of production, at least, in manufacturing. It might be presumed, therefore, that any aid extended to workmen to make the transition easier for them would meet with a large degree of success. When it is established that things are already tending that way, meaning the growth of intel
ligence among the class as yet almost wholly dependent upon what may be called capitalistic control and supervision, the natural inference would be that philanthropic effort, directed toward facilitating the transition, would be successfully exerted, when exerted at all.
Yet so frightful is the blight of governmental interference with things industrial that a very powerful effort toward aiding workmen to form co-operative societies has just now been thwarted in France by the intervention of the political machinery. I was about to say political ageucy, but classical prejudice forbids the use of a word apt to suggest the association of intelligence with POLITICS. In 1878, Benjamin Rampal left a legacy of 1,500,000 francs to be devoted to making loans to co-operative societies in Paris. Five years later, or in 1883, 400,000 francs became available for this purpose, and was accordingly lent to forty-nine societies, and since then other instalments have been applied in the same manner, making in all, at present, 447,000 francs. The time for repayment has not yet expired, in the case of fifteen of the societies, whose joint loans amount to 197,000 francs. In the interval ending December, 1889, loans amounting to 250,000 francs have therefore fallen due. The fate of these loans is most interesting. Of the favored societies, three were behindhand in that month, but still in operation; eighteen were in process of liquidation, or had already dissolved; seven (presumably other) societies are put down as bankrupt. Only six societies have met their obligations,
a total of 13,950 francs. The loss to the fund has already amounted to nearly one half of the loans, - one half, that is, of 447,000 francs; say 220,000 francs. But the sum of 197,000 francs is not yet due, so that the loss is 220,000 francs out of a total of 250,000 francs. Nearly nine tenths of the money due from the loans in compliance with the provisions of the bequest of Benjamin Rampal has been lost in six years!
How has this stupendous failure been consummated? What is the origin of these insolvencies? Where is the seat of the infirmity? Philanthrophy, well-directed toward an end assuredly good, toward an end which contemporary experience proves to be feasible and wise-what defect has misguided its beneficence? what flaw has marred its exe
cution and left a mere wreck of non-performances?
It might be supposed that the reply to this question would involve a very delicate inquiry into the details of the plan itself, and a very searching investigation into the mode of operation which was adopted for its execution. At first glance, the presumption would be, that war, famine, or other pestilence had attended this industrial Waterloo. The suggestion would seem inevitable that the very basis of co-operation must be unsound, and that the whole question must be reopened. But the solution of the problem lies nearer to hand. The mind is indeed irresistibly led to inquire for the conditions of the failure; but the investigation, unlike most industrial inquiries, is rewarded with prompt success.
The legacy was left to the city of Paris, its application was confided to the municipality!
Now, why seek further? To be sure, we might demand a catalogue of the municipal bureaus, a directory of city officials, a schedule of public works and buildings, a list of the cooperative societies, the roll of their members, whose names we might proceed to verify on the dockets of criminal courts, perhaps. But the task is really superfluous. The money was left to the control of political machinery, and that is sufficient. For whatever is concerned with government, to it all these things are added. It is enough to add this case at the end of that list of government failures whose beginning is lost in the receding darkness of the prehistoric past.
In 1889 there were landed in New York 315,227 steerage passengers from foreign shores. The German lines excelled. The North German Lloyd brought over 60,000, making 103 trips. The Hamburg-American Packet line brought 34,600, making 86 trips. The English lines-say the Cunard, the Inman, and the White Star - brought over from 20,000 to 27,000 each; while the Anchor line from Glasgow landed 12,600. The French line from Havre, and the Red Star were not far behind the English lines. These are the round numbers. Altogether, say 315,000 immigrants landed in New York.
Of course, this is precisely the state of things imagined by the founders of the Government a hundred years ago, when they pro
vided for liberal naturalization, and encouraged in the States the adoption of a wide and easy franchise. Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, all in fact, clearly foresaw and imagined this result. True, the mode of transportation with which they were familiar suggested to them an ocean voyage of from sixty to two hundred days in a heavy schooner or a clumsy brig, with a fair chance of a grave at sea. The cost, too, they regarded as a heavy charge on the purse of the rich. Taking sixty days for the voyage, a three-hundredton vessel could easily make two trips in a year, and, considering the cost, danger, uncertainty of success here, etc., might bring twenty or twenty-five immigrants each time. In order to bring over to New York 315,000 immigrants a year, therefore, only 6,300 brigs would need to be plying constantly from Europeon ports, flying across the water in fifty or sixty days, fairly scudding over the waves, dashing through the sea as it were. What were 6,300 passenger packets to Jefferson? Why, nothing, positively nothing: did not "tramps" turn up in New York almost every month, on their way home from the West Indies? And Jefferson was so sanguine, you know: he actually thought he had founded a government which should concern itself with hardly anything but freedom!
With Hamilton the case was slightly different. He did not believe that 6,300 packets a year would make port at New York with immigrants from Europe. But he clearly foresaw how the case would be; he knew that some one was going to discover steam in a little while, and that ships would be built of 10,000 tons. He realized that the Government would coerce unwilling capital into building railroads throughout the West and preparing a place there for the arriving multitudes.
It is unnecessary to describe more closely the views of other less celebrated politicians who were concerned with marking out the early lines of American citizenship. It is sufficient to note that they all knew just what the effect would be on American POLITICS; for the conditions of immigration which prevailed in their day, and with which they were familiar, furnished them with such perfect material for drawing a forecast of the events of 1889. Washington came to New York in that year on a certain occasion. He must have seen at a glance how the case stood.
Any one would have recognized, merely by going out to Bowling Green on the elevated. . .
These reflections show us how wisely we have taken to heart the teachings of our ancestors. The good they bequeathed us, we have zealously and industriously cherished. Their talents we have let out at interest; yea, at high interest; and for every talent we can show a thousand. They brought over immigrants singly and in families; but we bring them in companies of ten, in companies of a hundred, in companies of a thousand — and in steamships.
But the blunders of our ancestors we have left behind. The worst of these was the folly of freedom and unregulated personal liberty. We have followed their example, and turned their precept to well-deserved contempt.
WHEN THIEVES FALL OUT.
The present session of Congress is not yet concluded, but it is not too early to take an account of its work. And what has this, already one of the longest sessions in our history, accomplished under rules professedly adopted to facilitate business? Simply a moderate amount of bad legislation. Not a single act of legislation has been passed which rational men the words are not a tautology which rational men, viewing the matter dispassionately, could approve; not a single bad law of the thousands which disfigure the statute-book has been repealed, unless to make room for a worse law.
The conditions under which the present Congress met were the most favorable to the enactment of laws that have prevailed for several years. Both Houses and the Presidency were in the possession of one political party. That party came into power after a period of defeat, and so was fairly united; and in each House it increased the majority given it by the people to all that could reasonably be desired. There were no burning questions to be decided by this Congress upon which the minority could be expected to make a bitter fight.
Very little legislation was required from the Fifty-first Congress, in fact, there was hardly any reason for its meeting except custom. The number of men who really think
that the country could not have got along so well without this session-apart from the matter of necessary appropriations — is very small. There was, to be sure, a general demand for a revision of the tariff, but a sense of its utter incompetency for the task ought to have prevented Congress from attempting that, if any sense whatever could be expected from that body. Nevertheless, the attempt was made. The method pursued, which practically amounted to consulting the wishes of a few who would be benefited by an increase of the tariff, to the practical exclusion, or at any rate, neglect, of the many who would be benefited by a lowering of the tariff, was just what might have been expected. Expected, too, might have been the result, a result which the more demagogic members tenderly term redeeming the pledges of the platform, which Senator Plumb, by a common figure of rhetoric, calls paying the pound of flesh nominated in the bond.
But the majority in Congress was not satisfied to do badly work which was demanded of it, and which it could not by any possibility have done well, but it gratuitously attempted to pass legislation, and actually did pass some measures so bad that the minority would have been justified in resorting to revolutionary methods to block them. The iniquity of the majority stands out the more clearly in that it is responsible for the adoption of revolutionary methods to carry out its designs. The responsibility, of course, rests chiefly upon the leaders. The present Congress seems to be composed mainly of well-meaning men, possessing a vague consciousness of their unfitness for their position, and a few particularly unprincipled leaders having a certain kind of cleverness. Perhaps the majority are a little more pliable and ductile than is usually the case. Now, a combination of clever knavery and honest stupidity may be the most dangerous possible combination in a government; but fortunately in this case the qualities were not distributed in such a way as to make the body very dangerous. If the knavery and cleverness were concentrated in one or two leaders, the results that might follow are appalling, but when they are distributed, as now, among ten or twelve, the effects are neutralized. The interests of the leaders are not identical, and dissentions arise. Thus, though they are all interested in the success of their party, and some in the wel
fare of their country to a slight extent, each one's supreme object of devotion is himself; to further his own advancement each is perfectly ready to sacrifice his party and especially his associates, to say nothing of his country.
Dissentions between party leaders seem likely to demoralize the dominant party in Congress; but that is a small matter. Unscrupulous partisanship has its evil effects upon the country. A few years since the ill feelings caused by the war through which the country passed a quarter of a century ago seemed to be rapidly dying out. But men have been found willing and eager, for the sake of an advantage to their party, and, through their party, to themselves, to revive these feelings and to appeal to them by means of sectional legislation. One would naturally suppose that the course of these men would be regarded with horror and detestation by every one not like themselves; of such men it can with great truth be said that they could do more for their country by their death than by their whole life. And yet it is these men that this nation delights to trust and honor.
THE LATE STRIKE.
Rarely does a strike occur in which the sympathies of the public are so directly against the strikers as they were in the recent strike on the New York Central. The same general question was involved here which is involved in almost every strike, namely, Shall a combination of capitalists manage their business solely with reference to their own profit and pleasure? But the particular interference attempted was not one to excite public approval. The general opinion seems to have been that here was a case in which the workmen endeavored to enforce a tyrannical demaud, and that the life of rail. way managers would be unbearable if they were to be subject to such interferences with their pleasure.
Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that the workmen are really co-operators in running the road, and they cannot be blamed for wishing to have as much influence as possible in certain aspects of its management. They have a right to combine; the goodness or badness of their combination must be judged by the wisdom of the objects sought to be
effected. In this case there seems to have been an error of judgment; the organization was not powerful enough to secure what it was striving for. Still, the action taken by the strikers was perfectly in line with the position taken by the managers. If the latter claim the right to discharge workmen for any reason or for no reason, they cannot consistently complain if workmen decide to stop work for any reason or for none at all. The men are obliged to comply with certain conditions, or they cannot remain in the employ of the company. If they think themselves strong enough, they can hardly be blamed for trying to make the company comply with certain conditions, in order to retain their services.
A feature of the strike, by no means peculiar to this one, which really deserves more attention than all other features, was the employment by the company of a private organization to protect its property. Certainly, if there is any duty which we may properly look to the Government to perform, it is the preservation of order and the protection of life and property. It is, perhaps, no objection to a thing to say that it is an anomaly; but it surely is a great anomaly that there should exist here in the nineteenth century an organization such as the Pinkertons, which wealthy individuals and corporations make use of to protect their persons or property independently of the Government, as if they were barons of the Middle Ages. Doubtless the persons composing the Government find it more interesting and profitable to devise means for regulating railroads when there is no need than to protect railroad property when there is need; but the consequences arising from their doing the one are less momentous than those likely to arise from their neglect to do the other.
[Thoughts suggested by perusing these remarks in Liberty, referring to my humble self:
He reminds one of the clown at the circus when "stumped" by the ringmaster to turn a double somersault over the elephant's back.
To the editor of Liberty, therefore, I respectfully inscribe the following lines, confident that the sentiments here expressed, by contrast with my "clownish" efforts, will appear to him the perfection of philosophy.]